Sunday, September 21, 2008

we made scones. and i bought too much corn.

I've had plenty of bakery scones over the years. one bite reminds me why I don't buy them that often - they are dry, crumbly, and usually don't taste like anything. then i found this recipe for scones that promised "moist, biscuit-like texture". flour, eggs, cream, dried cherries . . dude, i want some!!

Scones - slightly modified from The Joy of Cooking
makes 12-15 scones

2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp cold butter, cut into pieces
1/2 dried cherries (or other dried fruit. chop it up real small)
1 egg
1/2 cup heavy cream (we used half & half)
1 tsp grated orange zest
a few more tsp cream

preheat oven to 425. blend flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. cut in the butter with a pastry blender. keep the butter cold until you are going to use it. the idea is to slice it into smaller and smaller peices that can be coated with the flour mixture, not to smush them together into a greasy paste. gently fold in the dried cherries. now, add the egg, cream and orange zest, and mix with a rubber spatula. you want to moisten all the dry ingredients, but don't overmix.

(this is where the recipe said to knead on a floured surface, but as the dough was the consistency of really wet oatmeal, we actually skipped that step. maybe that's how the bakery scones i've had in the past got all dry and bleh?)

drop onto a greased cookie sheet. you should get 12-15 scones, and they will spread when you bake them, so don't put them too close together. brush the tops with the additional few teaspoons of cream. i was worried the cream would all pool down to the cookie sheet and burn there, but the unbaked scones were all nooked and crannied (like english muffins!), and so the cream didn't go anywhere it wasn't supposed to go. if you want, shake on some cinamon. Bake until the tops are golden brown, 12-15 minutes. cool on a rack. make sure to eat at least one warm, because they are never going to taste this good again.

I dare you to find a more delicious marriage of sconey, biscuity goodness!

Also, sweet corn was on sale at the farmers market. i bought a half dozen ears, and seriously, how much corn on the cob are my husband and i really going to eat? Still not sure what I was going to do with it, i cooked up three ears, then scraped the kernels into two bowls. one was going to end up a salad type thing, the other would become salsa of some kind.

Corn Salsa
1-2 ears corn, removed from ear of corn
3 green onions, chopped small
good pinch hot pepper flakes
1 large tomato, chopped
1 tbsp lime juice
salt & pepper
1 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro

in the bottom of a bowl, put the green onions and the hot pepper flakes. pour the lime juice over the top and let marinate a few minutes. then add the corn, tomato and cilantro. season with salt & pepper and enjoy.

Corn Chickpea salad (i loves me chickpeas!!)
1-2 ears corn, removed from ear of corn
1 can chickpeas
1 large tomato, chopped
1/2 cucumber, seeded and chopped
1 green onion, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp mint
salt and pepper

mix all ingredients in a large bowl, and chill for a few hours. mix well again before serving.

Book News - am working on reviews for Sundiver and Cryptonomicon. If you don't see them soon, feel free to harass me.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

random bits, and Google Maps

my review of Michael Marshall Smith's The Servants has been published here. Great book for pre-teen readers. my biggest complaint is that the book is so short! kids who are at the reading level for this have probably just finished the first or second Harry Potter book, i worry they would be bored with a book that just over 200 pages. so my message to Mr. Marshall Smith? you're not half bad, now give me another hundred pages!

Another short but incredibly satisfying and smart read is Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, which is available via creative commons, here. I've been reading Mr. Doctorow for a few years now, and I religiously follow his stuff on Boing (and if you go that site, today, right now, the top article is about guess what? Little Brother!!). More on Little Brother in a bit, but Since Cory Doctorow is now my favorite person of the day (go Canada!), i found myself studying his "suggested reading list" down at the very bottom of the Little Brother page. this is how I found myself reading Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. I might suck at math, but i really enjoy reading about it. In the first hundred pages of Cryptonomicon, the story takes you to Pearl Harbor, Shanghai, various neighborhoods in Manila, Corregidor, Cavite, Gaudalcanal (where's the canal?), and other famous WWII pacific theatre locations. The only thing worse than my history is my geography, and I'm embarrassed to say I couldn't find most of these places on a map, or tell you why they are important (even more embarrassing is how many americans suffer from the same problem, and don't realize it's a problem).

i might not know where Manila is, but Google Maps does. with the high rez photography, i can even pick out the shipping containers, cranes, churches, plazas, and slums. Google maps gives me a whole new way to follow characters and stories. I'm sure Google Earth would even give me a orthogonal view of the exact hotel mentioned in the book.

Maybe tonight i'll map out all the places mentioned in Little Brother, in and around San Fransisco. See? the internet isn't all crap!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Inspired by recipes, but not really following them.

recipe, schmecipe! i don't need no stinkin' recipe! but a list of ingredients would be nice, and maybe a clue about the proportions. .. . . and i'm missing some ingredeints on the list, and i got some stuff in the fridge that needs to be used, like right now.

summer must be almost over because although i never thought it could happen, i'm actually kind of sick of tomatoes, and i'm starting to crave warm winter grains like barley. and i'm always craving rice.

what to do with a pantry full of staples, a barley craving, and a rice craving? and i'm too lazy to take on something overly ambitious, so i'll pull out some recipes, and well, fake it.

Mushroom Barley Caserole (sort of, kind of, based on Mom's mushroom barley caserole)

4 slices bacon
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
6 to 8 oz mushrooms (i used canned, eek! but fresh would be better)
3/4 cups pearl barley
1 can chicken broth
salt and pepper
a few tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

preheat oven to 350. in heavy skillet, cook the bacon over medium high heat. when it's done, remove and drain on paper towels, then chop. cook onion in the bacon grease, adding butter or olive oil if needed. after a few minutes, add the carrots. when the onions are getting brown, stir in the mushrooms. add the barley, and stir to coat. season with salt & pepper and stir in the parsley, and stir the chopped bacon back in. when the barley has darkened slightly, pour in the chicken broth. turn the stove off, pour everything into a greased 9x9 baking dish (or shallow caserole of similar volume), cover, and bake for an hour. check the barley for done-ness, it might need to cook for another 15 minutes, and it's better slightly undercooked than overcooked.

Green Jumbalaya (I did briefly glance at the recipe in Joy of Cooking. it called for basil. odd. but tasty. i skipped all semblence of tomatoes. thus, the name "Green")

4 chicken or turkey sausauges (buy some with some flavor. please)
one onion, chopped
one green pepper and one sweet pepper, chopped
1 large rib celery, chopped
salt & pepper
1 tbsp dried basil
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 cup rice
2 1/4 cups water
good pinch red pepper flakes

cook sausages on the stove. chop them up first if you want, because this is their chance to cook. once cooked, remove the sausages. hopefully there is some grease left behind. if not, you'll need to some oil or butter. put the onion, peppers, and celery in the skillet, and cook over medium heat till the onions cook down a bit, 5-10 minutes. season with salt and pepper and other spices, then add one cup rice, and the water. stir the sausage peices back in. bring the whole thing to a boil, then cover, and simmer on low heat until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. i suggest checking the skillet every 5-10 minutes, to make sure your rice isn't burning on the bottom.

i'm actually eating another bowl of the Green Jumbalaya right now. For a weeknight dinner, i wasn't look for something spectactularly culinary, just something easy, fast, and good. it's spot on enough for me!